How To Compost Horse Manure

Make the Best Natural Fertilizer ever

The best kind of horse manure to compost is mixed well with some straw that has been laid on, stomped on and peed on. Unfortunately, this is not always available, and we have to make do with what we have.

How to Compost Horse Manure

Horses have a few vile traits, which you would never know by looking at them.

Most people that don’t know horses think they are beautiful, kind creatures with no bad habits.

Those of us that have been around horses know better. They like to defecate where they eat, and then lie in it.   Horses will also roll in it, leaving stains on their coats which are impossible to get out.

This works well for our purposes, which is to make highly nutritious organic fertilizer from it.

Whenever I’ve been in charge of horses, I like to rake and shovel every day, so that it doesn’t build up in one spot and get totally compacted.

Raking and collecting horse manureRaking and collecting horse manure has to be done daily

If you don’t go out into the field and ‘kick shit’ (scattering it) every day, or better yet rake and shovel it into a wheelbarrow, the grass and other forbs will die from lack of light.

It is also high in nitrogen, and the horses won’t eat the resulting growth.

It's also important to shovel it so that parasites don't get re-ingested.

Some horses tend to always defecate and urinate in one spot, so you’ll wonder why there are a few places in your pasture that look lush and green, while the rest of it is mown to a nubbin.

Good pasture management benefits your farm in many ways; mostly giving you lots of fodder for your compost pile.

The best compost I ever made was one third horse manure, one third fallen poplar leaves, and one third very aged sawdust, with the addition of a small amount of moldy chick feed.

The result was a steaming hot compost pile, even when temperatures dipped to minus 20 Celsius overnight, and no warmer than minus 10 in the daytime.

Here are a few observations and tips: The manure right out of the horse comes in pellet or ball form. Collected fresh, although stinky, is best. If it’s allowed to dry out too much in this form, it basically mummifies, and you’ll never be able to break it up enough for the microorganisms to get at it.

You’ll have a lot of opportunities to get the right kind of manure, because horses defecate up to eighteen times a day. This is because they pretty much eat constantly if given the chance, and so it comes out the other end at the same rate.

Horses only have one stomach, so what comes out looks almost the same as what went in. This is good for adding organic matter to your soil, not so good for weed seeds, which are ready to germinate. For this reason, never add fresh horse manure directly to your garden. All you’ll do is add a million seeds to it, and they’ll have a field day in your lovely organic soil.

Composting deals with the seeds by heating the pile up to over 160 degrees Fahrenheit, or 45 degrees Celsius. If you’ve ever stuck your hand in to a working compost pile, you know that it gets very hot. Keeping the whole thing turned over so all portions of it get the benefit of the heat, as well as keeping it damp enough for the microorganisms life processes are key.

Lovely Arab FilliesLovely Arab Fillies

In case you were wondering, the heat of a good working compost pile is produced by the millions of bacteria, fungus and tiny creatures reproducing and eating. The heat is a by product, not the cause of the breaking down, so simply adding heat won’t do anything.

Keep dogs away from fresh horse manure for two (well, actually three reasons);

  • First, fresh horse manure will possibly contain the eggs and sometimes live adult round worms, a parasitic ascarid and infect your dog with these worms.

  • Two: if the horse has been recently dewormed using any product containing Ivermectin, this is poisonous to dogs, and can kill them horribly – there is no proof that a dog ingesting the manure of a recently dewormed horse will have this reaction, but no point in tempting fate.

  • Third, dogs love to eat fresh horse manure, but then tend to throw up later on your gorgeous hardwood floor or precious Persian rug.

I am always on the lookout for horse manure these days, as I no longer have the joy of owning any of these beasts. I have neighbors with horses, so periodically I go there and shovel out their loafing shed.

If you have neighbors with horses and want to gain the benefit of the manure, they will welcome you with open arms.


If you use horse manure from any source, be very careful that their feed is not sprayed with Grazon.  This is a long lasting aminopyralid herbicide, sprayed on the hay fields for broadleaf weed control then fed to horses and cows in feed lots, pastures and almost everywhere else in Canada. 

You cannot find a clean source of hay unless you grow it yourself, and can be certain that no-one has sprayed this evil chemical. 

See more about how to recognize the damage with the Survival Gardener and The Grow Network. Please spread this important news on your networks of gardeners to prevent even more heartbreak.

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